Movie Review: Constantine (2005)

(this review contains spoilers)

Constantine (2005) was quite entertaining, and I found myself really touched by two performances in particular: Tilda Swinton playing Gabriel-gone-awry, and Peter Stormare in a wonderful Satan role. (Keanu Reeves does his normal thing, and Rachael Weisz, looking as gorgeous as usual, phones it in). The rest of the movie is predictable super-natural action.

Stormare's Satan has about 2 minutes of screen time, but he captures the essence of Satan in that one moment when he looks at God. The sadness and loss is palpable on his face. The story of Satan is the ultimate cautionary tale, that of an angel who has badly lost his way, who is so wracked with terrible cravings and emotion that he is forever driven away from the peace and harmony of God. In that one moment when Satan lifts his red-rimmed eyes (due to all-night partying, no doubt) to the Light, Satan as the ultmate evil-doer ultimately deserves our pity.

I've liked Swinton since her turn in the otherwise poor "The Beach". Here, she paints a subtly *wrong* angel Gabriel - and that wrongness is rooted firmly in hubris. It turns out that Gabriel *wants* hell-on-earth because "only when faced with horror does mankind show his nobility." So this is an example of the "we had to destroy the villiage to save it" sort of reasoning. (As an aside, Gabriel is absolutely wrong as nobility can be shown, or not shown, in any circumstance. Hopefully real angels, if they exist, are better thinkers than the script-writers of this movie.)

Swinton exudes a variety of emotion in her too-brief screen time: arrogance, jealousy, a kind of do-gooder superior snideness. She portrays the kind of person (or angel) who is far to certain that they are right, and who suffers for it in the end. (Although, to be fair, it is only the conceit of the storyteller that things end up for the best when Gabriel is thwarted. The author would be within their rights to claim that Gabriel's plan was a good one, one requiring daring and great confidence, and that if successful mankind would indeed be better off spiritually if not materially. I guess my only retort is that such a conceit would *suck*.)

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